Michael Cheek hat-trick helps Braintree Town into second round of FA Trophy

Michael Cheek prepares to bag his hat-trick for Braintree

Michael Cheek prepares to bag his hat-trick for Braintree - Credit: Archant

Thanks to a smartly taken hat-trick by the in-form Michael Cheek the Iron eventually eased their way into the next round after an initially difficult period of the game on the tricky muddy Rookery Hill pitch on Saturday.

But for a brilliant save on 19 minutes by Iron keeper Sam Beasant, denying former Town player Reece Harris from opening the scoring, it could have been a different outcome.

Beasant’s save proved to be a game changing moment because once in front on 39 minutes the Iron never looked like losing out to a home side who play one level lower in the Vanarama National South.

“They made it really difficult for us in that opening 20 minutes when we were sloppy in ever department and players not doing the simple thing,” explained Iron manager Hakan Heyrettin. “It took a great save from Sam to keep us level and it was a much needed wake-up call too.

“Yes, the muddy and uneven pitch was a leveller but we knew what to expect and they are a decent enough team but at the beginning we were playing in fits and starts,” he continued. “Once we scored it gave players more confidence and we then started to play how we can and from then on the result was not in doubt.”

Hayerettin gave a first start to ex-Ipswich winger Alex Henshall and with Millwall loanee Kris Twardek on the other flank, both caused problems down the wings all afternoon with their speed and ball control.

The two other changes from the team that beat Sutton United in midweek was the return of Norwich City loanee Ebou Adams in midfield and Jake Goodman in the centre of defence at the expense of Ian Gayle with Sam Corne and Lee Barnard relegated to the subs’ bench.

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After surviving that difficult first 20 minutes it was Cheek’s opening goal – a superbly taken free-kick 25 yards out that rocketed into the top corner of the home net – that calmed Iron nerves and right on half time it was Cheek and his never-say-die attitude that gave his side the all important second goal.

He chased down home keeper Lukas Lidakevicius as he attempted to kick the ball out but it cannoned off the striker running kindly behind the keeper leaving Cheek to score with a simply tap-in.

At half-time the home side fans probably felt aggrieved at the scoreline because their side had done more than enough to have at least been on level terms.

The game though was effectively over as a contest 50 second into the restart when in their first attack Jack Midson slipped a fine ball through to Cheek who ran on rounding keeper Lidakevicius to slide the ball into the net.

There was brief respite for the home side on 49 minute when much to the amazement of all fans referee Christopher O’Donnell decided an Iron player had allegedly handled the ball as it was swung over the from a corner on the right.

It was left to Sam Higgins to fire the spot kick past keeper Beasant but any thoughts by home fans in the 313 watching crowd there might be a revival for them quickly banished completely on 56 minutes when another fine attack move by the Iron saw Midson head home from close range after his first headed effort had come back off the bar.

At 4-1 the Iron still keep pressing for more goals and again Midson was so close to adding his second but a great first time header went narrowly over the bar.

The fifth goal though duly came on 56 minutes when substitute Lee Barnard drove the ball past the home keeper after excellent wing play by Henshall.

On 61 minutes the Iron again had the ball in the net through Cheek but mysteriously referee O’Donnell blew for an apparent foul on the build up by Goodman although both sides thought it was legitimate as they had started to line-up for a restart from the centre spot.

With boss Hayrettin making three Iron substitutions in the closing stage his side kept up the pressure on the home defence and they could well have had at least two or three more goals in the closing stages.

The one goal that did count came on the 90th minute in a rare breakaway by the side Higgins managed to stab home a loose ball in the Iron box but by then the game was over as a contest and the Iron progress into round three.

“Overall I was pleased with our play, despite those few early minutes, and we kept our shape and crucially our discipline and that’s what we must do in every game,” Hayrettin said. “We need to keep winning games because that breeds confidence of the players and the whole team as a unit.

“We now have a week to prepare for a really tough game away to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday,” he added. “This was Ebou Adams’ last game on loan but I am hoping that we can keep him for a bit longer and that something I shall be working on this week.”